What a relief to read Doug Miller's piece on Friday. Finally we have someone who is willing to go on the record to speak to this insanity at the Board of Education. (A hat tip to candidate Bess Altwerger as well, who ran Facebook ads supporting Cindy Vaillancourt last weekend.)
The Board of Education missed a teachable moment here. It is fine for a student to feel uncomfortable and speak up about it. It is fine for a parent to come to the Board. The breakdown comes when the Board doesn't do its job in handling the matter. "We are sincerely sorry that your child felt uncomfortable in this situation. We do want to assure you, however, that nothing Ms. Vaillancourt said was inappropriate in any way. Her concern for public health issues is in line with the Howard County health curriculum."
I wish this were truly about the student. The way it has been handled makes it clear that it isn't, and that really is a shame. We are left thinking that a) the Board lacks the basic competence and professionalism to handle a sensitive situation or, b) they deliberately manipulated a sensitive situation in order to malign Ms. Vaillancourt before the election.
Remember, in the very same way, the Board released a similar statement of displeasure before the primary election. I must say, if those in power at the Board of Education don't like you, they certainly know how to make your life difficult. What we see here hints at a long-standing pattern of behavior against a fellow board member. It sounds a lot like workplace bullying to me.
- Is driven by perpetrators' need to control the targeted individual(s).
- Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
- Is a set of acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others)
- Requires consequences for the targeted individual
- Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
- Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies' personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
- Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.
In light of the multiple campaigns in Howard County to address bullying, I find it frustrating that so few well-known community leaders have spoken up. I have seen those same people get in front of the cameras when it was an easy "photo op." Now I want to see who is willing to stand up to bullying when it may be personally or professionally awkward for them. We can't expect kids to believe our earnest admonishments when we can't even take our own advice.
Until yesterday I presumed that silence on the part of local electeds was out of a concern for their own elections. And then it occurred to me that they are in a terrible bind. Anything they say publicly can be seen as a move to influence the election. And that would be inappropriate.
So, it is up to us. We can use our voices to let our friends and neighbors know what is going on. We can communicate our dissatisfaction with the Board, and with our local elected officials. Most of all, we can vote for Board of Election candidates who stand for positive values: responsiveness, transparency, and, dare I say--civility.
Cindy Vaillancourt is at the top of my list.
Speaking of bullying, reader Donna Swope reminds me that tomorrow is Blue Shirt Day: World Day of Bullying Prevention. So, dress--and act-- accordingly!